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Group plans petitions on secret ballots, paycheck deductions

CARSON CITY — A national organization unhappy with organized labor intends to circulate two petitions in Nevada this year that would require union elections to be by secret ballot and require employees to agree before political contributions are taken from their paychecks.

A third petition to be circulated by SOS (Save Our Secret) Ballot would add to the state constitution the requirement that elections for public office and issues be conducted by secret ballot, as they are done now by widespread practice.

“I cannot imagine anything more private than how you vote and how you spend your money,” said Tim Mooney, national spokesman for the organization, which is made up of many small-business owners.

SOS Ballot is countering a nationwide union movement to force state and federal governments to adopt “card check,” which would allow workers to form a union by signing cards instead of holding a secret ballot vote.

Businesses say card check would make it easier for unions to organize workers, pushing up the cost of doing business and restricting managements’ ability to control its work force.

David Kallas, a legislative lobbyist for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, objected to the two questions that would affect unions.

“Their goal is to impede unions’ ability to organize,” Kallas said Wednesday.

“We (unions) act in the best interests of our members,” he said, adding that members approve bylaws that spell out the rights and responsibilities of unions.

He said unions need contributions from members to support politicians who back their causes.

The SOS Ballot Nevada initiative on paychecks really is an “impediment” to block unions from acting in their members’ best interest, Kallas said.

Mooney acknowledged that unions have opposed similar efforts in other states, and he expects challenges in Nevada.

In Wyoming, unions sought to do away with a requirement calling for secret ballots in union elections, he said.

Mooney said the paycheck deduction proposal is important because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that lifts limits on the amount of money that corporations and unions can contribute to political campaigns. SOS Ballot believes that because of that decision, there will be a concerted effort by unions and others to secure contributions from employees.

“We expect a union challenge,” Mooney said. “They want to know how I vote and who I give money to.”

Concerning SOS’s third petition, Mooney said that under the Nevada Constitution, a secret ballot is not guaranteed in elections for public bodies and on public issues. The Nevada Constitution states only that elections will be by “ballot.”

Mooney admitted, though, that local, state and national elections have been by secret ballot for about 130 years.

Mooney wouldn’t identify people and companies that contribute to the national effort, but SOS’ state chairman is Steve Wark, a Republican political consultant who is handling the gubernatorial campaign of former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon.

Mooney said he will comply with state laws requiring the identification of contributors to the SOS Ballot Nevada Group.

The three petitions, if approved by voters, would amend the state constitution.

SOS needs to get more than 97,000 signatures of registered voters on each petition by Aug. 4. If it does, the measures will be placed on the November ballot. To be placed in the constitution, they must be approved in November and again in 2012.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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